MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., --
Mlitary police and local police K-9 handlers visited the students of Condor Elementary for Red Ribbon Week Oct. 24, 2011.
Red Ribbon Week is scheduled for the last full week of October every year, as a way to promote drug prevention. Dog handlers brought out their trained canines and demonstrated their skill and obedience.
“How much training we put into these dogs transfers to showing these children that we’re here and basically providing a safer environment for them,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Skillings, a kennel master with Company A, Headquarters Battalion.
The event started out when the children entered the playground in the back at the school in a single file line. As they were being seated in columned rows, the kids began to notice all the dog handling gear laid out before them, the obstacle course and the two dogs standing beside it. Smiles popped up on faces and giggling between classmates began.
“The kids love it,” said Skillings, laughing himself. “Every time the dogs come out, they’re just so excited.”
The dog handlers began by introducing themselves, their canine counterparts and what they do as a team.
Cpl. Jacob Lucero and Lance Cpl. Jeremy Downey, explosive dog handlers with the battalion, stepped forward to pick up different pieces of gear they use to train their dogs.
Kids in the back row of the formation stretched their spines and stiffened their necks, anxious, trying to see over the kids in front of them. Dog handlers introduced everything from muzzles to protective attack suits.
After the gallery of training tools was explained, the handlers brought out the dogs for the obstacle course. The trained four-legged athletes cleared hurdles and dove through pipes with their handler running at their side, barking short commands to them.
Kids jumped from their regular sitting positions in the back to their knees, once again spines stretched, clapping and cheering.
The main event was still yet to come as Lance Cpl. Jose Rivera, a combat tracker with HQBN, suited up in protective gear smiling anxiously for his part in the upcoming show.
Rivera stood centered with the rows of students, a safe distance away. A few yards in front of him a K-9 handler and his dog, leash in hand.
Rivera began to walk toward the dog and his handler, acting as if he was ignoring the handler’s commands to halt. Even after repeated warnings Rivera continued to advance. The handler dropped his leash and gave the command to attack.
Rivera frantically fled in his padded suit, knowing what was next. After a short chase the dog caught up, biting the suit’s reinforced arm and taking Rivera to the ground.
Students were climbing over one another, eyes glued to the scene, jaws dropped, laughing. They cheered for the dog, as teachers tried to restore some order.
Handler went on to answer questions by the children, returning them to their classrooms where their day would be continued by more presentations from representatives with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.
“I think it’s important for our community relations to go out and do this for everyone,” said Skillings. “It helps show the community that this Marine Corps installation is here to make this a better environment for all.”